Thursday, June 22, 2006

Upgrade your punch now... new model available

Last night we celebrated the solstice with a cookout. City folk like us often lose touch with the pleasures of the outdoors and the slow pace of cooking food with fire instead of electromagnetic radiation. After the steak tips, after the cold drinks, after the ice cream sandwiches and gentle conversation, Leland told me an interesting story. The Native Americans did not know how to punch until they met the Europeans. They knew how to hit, but in fights they struck with their open hands. This story reminds us that fighting is a kind of technology. There are certain elements that are common around the world because they are the commodities of fighting, but there are some things that are peculiar to certain cultures or certain practitioners that make their art something more.

The story of the Indian punch reminds us that if there’s a move I learn in the form that doesn’t make sense, it might not be because the sources are doing it wrong, but because it’s just a bad move, or because the true application of the move is too cryptic for my humble skill to comprehend.

I’m lucky I’m just trying to learn how to fight with the Tai Chi sword. If I was trying to learn how to historically recreate the fighting techniques of the ancients, I would have a lot harder time because I’d have to verify the historical possibilities. Since I’m not though, if I want to say “Cat Pounces on Rat” should be done like a Fleche because it seems best that way, I can, and hopefully we will benefit from the idea even if it’s not historical.

2 comments:

David said...

I really like the point that fighting is a technology, or at least an art, but the story about the closed-fist punch being a European import smells of urban legend to me. I've been reading The Third Chimpanzee, which makes some interesting comments about this kind of cultural or evolutionary transmission, and also specifically mentions punching among lower primates. I wonder if Lee can cite a source on that comment.

Charlie said...

A more modern example would be early Ultimate Fighting Championship matches where known champion stand-up fighters were easily defeated by jiu-jutsu fighters because they didn't know how to defend themselves against grappling. Now, everyone knows at least some grappling when they go into a mixed martial arts fight.